A team of students from the University of Illinois has won this year's Ideas360 innovation competition. The Illinois team, calling itself the Lean Mean Graphene Machine, beat four other finalists to be named Ideas360 2016 champions at London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium.
The competition, held annually by Royal Dutch Shell, saw almost 1,000 student teams from around the world generate ideas designed to tackle various food, water and energy issues. Five teams made it to the finals, with the University of Illinois' graphene-coated condensers idea being selected by a panel of judges as the winning idea.
The Illinois students – Antonio Woods, Sean Ebihara and Somak Ghosh – developed a coating process that cools waters pipes in condensers, helping to increase efficiency, reduce costs and minimize the environmental footprint of power plants.
"We thought, ‘Why not use carbon to cut carbon emissions?’" Ghosh explained at the event.
Because the idea specifically targets water it can also be used to lower the cost of turning seawater into fresh water.
"It can cut out a third of the cost of a desalination plant," Ghosh said.
The University of Illinois students will now enjoy a National Geographic adventure holiday of a lifetime, courtesy of Shell.
Another team, REPiphany from Nanyang Technology University in Singapore, won the audience's award thanks to its idea to turn seaweed into a powder rich in nutrients that can be added to people's diets.